Top everyday cash back credit card picks
Earning cash back on everyday purchases is one of the simplest ways to get a little extra money in your pocket. The right cash back credit card can help you earn rewards without changing your spending habits.
In this guide, we’ll explore the top cash back cards for common purchases like gas, groceries, dining out, online shopping, and more. We’ll also look at the best options for flat-rate rewards and sign-up bonuses. Read on to find the perfect card for your lifestyle.
How cash back credit cards work
Cash back credit cards offer statement credits or cash rewards based on a percentage of your spending. Most cards offer 1-5% back in popular categories and 0.5-1.5% on other purchases. Some even offer bonus cash back at select merchants.
The rewards you earn are essentially a discount on what you’ve purchased. With responsible use, cash back cards are an easy way to spend less over time. Just make sure to always pay your balance in full each month to avoid interest charges.
Cash back rewards are usually paid out annually, or let you reach a redemption minimum before you can cash out. Many cards let you redeem for gift cards or statement credits if you don’t want to wait.
Now let’s look at the best cash back cards for different types of spending.
Best for gas – PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature
Earns 5X points per $1 on gas (2X on groceries, 1X everything else)
If you drive frequently, the PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature currently offers the highest gas rewards. You’ll earn 5 points per $1 spent at gas stations, including most major chains. Points can be redeemed for cash back or PenFed rewards.
With no annual fee, this is a great gas card for high mileage drivers who don’t mind joining a credit union. PenFed membership is free for all American citizens. You’ll just need to open a savings account with a minimum $5 deposit.
Best for groceries – Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
Earns 6% cash back at US supermarkets (6% on select streaming services, 3% on transit and gas, 1% everything else)
The Blue Cash Preferred from Amex is a top choice if you spend heavily on groceries. You’ll earn 6% back at US supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%). This can add up to $360 per year in rewards from grocery spending alone.
Plus, you’ll earn 6% on select streaming services, 3% at US gas stations, and 1% back on other purchases. The $95 annual fee is easily offset by the generous rewards if you can max out the $6,000 grocery cap.
Best for dining and entertainment – Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards
Earns 8% cash back on dining and entertainment, 3% at grocery stores, 1% on other purchases
Capital One SavorOne cardholders can earn unlimited 8% cash back on dining and entertainment purchases. This includes restaurants, fast food, movie theaters, sports venues, theme parks, and more. There are no bonus category caps to track and no annual fee.
You’ll also earn 3% back at grocery stores and 1% on other purchases. New cardholders can currently earn a $200 cash bonus after spending $500 on purchases within 3 months of account opening.
Best for online shopping – Discover it Cash Back
5% cash back in quarterly bonus categories (1% all other purchases)
Online shopping is a bonus category every quarter for the Discover it Cash Back card. Categories for 2023 include Amazon, Target, Walmart.com, and more. After enrollment, you’ll earn 5% back on up to $1,500 in quarterly purchases.
All other purchases earn 1% cash back. Discover matches all the rewards you earn after your first year, effectively doubling your payout. There is no annual fee for this card. The current welcome offer is $200 cashback after spending $1,000 within 3 months.
Best for rotating categories – Chase Freedom Flex
5% cash back in quarterly bonus categories (1% all other purchases)
The Chase Freedom Flex is another excellent card for maximizing quarterly 5% cash back categories, many of which are geared toward common daily spending. The 2023 Q1 categories are grocery stores, gas stations, select streaming services, and Chase Dining.
All other purchases outside the 5% categories earn 1% back. New cardholders can earn $200 bonus cash back after spending $500 on purchases in the first 3 months. There is no annual fee.
Best flat-rate card – Citi® Double Cash
2% cash back on all purchases (1% when you buy, 1% when you pay)
For a simple, straightforward cash back card the Citi Double Cash is hard to beat. You’ll earn 2% back on every purchase with no bonus categories to track. Earn 1% when you make a purchase and another 1% when you pay it off.
This flat-rate return makes the Citi Double Cash easy to use as an everyday spending card. There are no caps on how much you can earn. New cardholders can get $200 cash back after spending $1,500 in purchases within 6 months of account opening. There is no annual fee.
Best sign-up bonus – Chase Freedom Unlimited
Earns 5% cashback on travel booked through Chase, 3% dining and drugstores, 1.5% on other purchases
The Chase Freedom Unlimited is currently offering new cardholders $200 cash back after spending just $500 on purchases within 3 months of account opening. On top of that, you’ll earn:
- 5% cash back on travel booked through Chase
- 3% cash back on dining, drugstores, and gas
- 1.5% cash back on all other purchases
There are no caps on how much total rewards you can earn and no annual fee. The Freedom Unlimited pairs well with other Chase cards if you want to combine rewards into valuable points and miles.
Factors to consider when choosing a cash back credit card
With so many excellent options, how do you narrow down your choice to find the best card? Here are a few key factors to consider as you compare top cash back credit cards:
- Your spending categories – Pick a card that matches your largest regular expenses. Frequent drivers do best with gas rewards, while big grocery shoppers benefit from 6% back from the Amex Blue Cash Preferred.
- Interest rates and fees – Cards with no annual fee make it easier to come out ahead. Compare interest rates as well, since you’ll want to avoid carrying a balance month-to-month.
- Sign-up bonuses – Many cards offer $200 or more back after meeting initial spending requirements. This bonus cash can give your rewards a helpful kickstart.
- Redemption options – Some cards offer statement credits while others deposit, send checks, or let you redeem for gift cards or travel. Consider when and how you’d like to access your rewards.
- Perks – Look for benefits like purchase protection, extended warranty coverage, rental car insurance, and more. Valuable perks add further value beyond just earning cash back.
How to earn the most cash back rewards
To maximize your credit card rewards, follow these simple tips for earning cash back:
- Use the right card for each purchase – Keep track of current bonus categories across all your cards and use the one that earns the highest rate for each transaction.
- Take advantage of sign-up bonuses – Bonus cash is common for new cardholders who meet minimum spending requirements within a set timeframe after getting approved.
- Pay your bill in full each month – Interest charges can negate the value of any rewards earned. Avoid balances whenever possible.
- Consider card pairing strategies – Complement flat-rate cards with ones that offer rotating or tiered bonus categories. Use each one for its strengths.
- Increase spending during bonus periods – Make additional purchases in that quarter’s 5% bonus categories if it makes sense for your budget. Maximize category caps when you can.
- Shop through cash back portal – Retail sites like Rakuten provide additional percentage-based rewards for purchases made via their platform. Bonuses can add up quickly.
- Refer friends to earn extra rewards – Some cards give referral bonuses when friends and family open accounts using your custom link.
The bottom line
Cash back credit cards make it easy to earn rewards from routine spending. The most lucrative options match 5-6% back in common categories where you’re likely spending money anyway.
A flat-rate card like the Citi Double Cash acts as an excellent catch-all for 2% back on all other purchases. Used wisely, cash back cards effectively save you money versus paying full price on everything you buy.
Just be sure to always make payments on time and avoid carrying balances. This keeps credit card costs to a minimum so rewards provide pure profit.
With a little strategic planning, you can choose cards that align with your lifestyle and spending patterns. Over time, cash back gives your budget a boost simply by going about your regular shopping and dining routines.